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Interior Secretary Nominee on Climate Change: 'I Don't Believe It's a Hoax'

Interior Secretary Nominee on Climate Change: 'I Don't Believe It's a Hoax'

Zinke insisted that "there's a debate" on what exactly man's influence on the climate is, as well as on "what we can do about it".

"I fully recognize that there is distrust, anger, and even hatred against some federal management policies", Zinke said. "I'm not a climate scientist expert, but I can tell you I will become a lot more familiar with it, and it will be based on objective science".

"I do not think it is a hoax", he said.

Zinke said climate change isn't a hoax, but from there, his answer got muddier.

Over the last eight years, the Interior Department has sought to limit industry access to federal lands and played a key role in President Barack Obama's agenda to combat climate change, as it proposed rules aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions from energy production on federal land. The president-elect and his son, Donald Trump Jr., both oppose sale of federal lands. "I know that you're not here to be administrator of the [Environmental Protection Agency] or secretary of the [Department of Energy], but climate change is in fact very important for issues that DOI deals with".

Zinke "says he's against transfer of federal lands, but there's a big gap between what he says and what he does in that regard", said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, the nation's oldest and largest environmental group.

"The second thing is man has had an influence". That means I don't know definitively.

WASHINGTON DC- JANUARY 17 U.S. Secretary of Interior nominee Rep. Ryan Zinke, is sworn in during his confirmation hearing before Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee

Sanders cut him off there, saying, "Well, actually, there's not a whole lot of debate now".

Sanders looked around at some of his Republican colleagues before adding, "There is a debate on this committee, but not within the scientific community".

The GOP regularly cycles through reasons for ignoring the scientific consensus that humans are largely responsible for climate change.

"Again, we need an economy and jobs too, and in my experience of probably seeing 63 different countries, I've seen what happens when you don't have regulations-" Zinke responded.

But as a congressman he has also fought for increased energy development on federal lands, a position that has anxious conservationists and which fits neatly with Trump's vows to bolster the US energy sector by scaling back regulation and opening up more publicly held land. Cantwell also said she wants reassurances that Zinke will protect the interests of American consumers and native tribes, and "not just the coal and mining companies". Trump has long supported increased energy exploration on public land, including national parks.

"I will encourage absolutely wind and solar - all the above - so I think that's the better solution going forward is all the above energy", said Zinke.

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